Donald R. McClarey
I rejoice that in this blessed country of free inquiry and belief, which has surrendered its conscience to neither kings or priests, the genuine doctrine of only one God is reviving, and I trust that there is not a young man now living in the United States who will not die a Unitarian.
Thomas Jefferson, 1822
For a very, very long time individuals have been proposing that if churches wish to survive in future they must “modernize”, which usually comes down to agreeing with the person giving the advice. The hilarious fact is that churches that accept such advice normally rapidly lose members and become pale shadows, at best, of what they once were. Alexander Griswold gives, at The Federalist, examples of what has happened to churches that have modified their doctrine in regard to homosexuality:
But a number of Christian denominations have already taken significant steps towards liberalizing their stances on homosexuality and marriage, and the evidence so far seems to indicate that affirming homosexuality is hardly a cure for membership woes. On the contrary, every major American church that has taken steps towards liberalization of sexual issues has seen a steep decline in membership.
The Episcopal Church
In 2003, Gene Robinson became the first openly gay, noncelibate man to be consecrated as a bishop of the Episcopal Church. In the wake of his consecration, entire dioceses severed ties with the Episcopal Church, eventually creating the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA). But the Episcopal Church continued to liberalize its sexual teachings, lifting a moratorium on any more gay bishops in 2006 and creating a “blessing ceremony” for gay couples in 2009.
In 2002, the number of baptized U.S. members of the Episcopal Church stood at 2.32 million. By 2012, that number had fallen to 1.89 million, a decline of 18.4 percent. Meanwhile, attendance has fallen even more steeply. Average Sunday attendance in its U.S. churches was 846,000 in 2002, but had fallen 24.4 percent by 2012 to only 640,000. Other signs of congregational liveliness have fallen even further. Baptisms have fallen by 39.6 percent, and marriages have fallen by 44.9 percent.
As for the ACNA? It’s seen its membership rise by 13 percent and its Sunday attendance rise by 16 percent in the past five years. Since 2009, the ACNA has planted 488 new congregations. In 2012, the entire Episcopal Church managed to plant four new churches.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) was formed in 1987, when three Lutheran denominations merged to create the largest Lutheran church in America. For most of its history, gay men and women were permitted to be pastors, so long as they remained celibate. But in a narrow vote at its 2009 Churchwide Assembly, ordination was extended to gay men and women in “committed monogamous relationships.” In addition, the Assembly passed an amendment allowing churches “to recognize, support and hold publicly accountable life-long, monogamous, same-gender relationships.”
From ELCA’s formation in 1987 to 2009, the average decrease in membership each year was only 0.62 percent. But after the liberalization of the ELCA’s stance on sexuality, membership declined a whopping 5.95 percent in 2010 and 4.98 percent in 2011. Since 2009, more than 600 congregations abandoned the denomination, with almost two-thirds joining conservative Lutheran denominations like the North American Lutheran Church and Lutheran Churches in Ministry for Christ.
By the end of 2012, ELCA had lost 12.3 percent of its members in three years—nearly 600,000 people. If the present rate of defections holds steady, ELCA will cease to exist in less than two decades.
The United Church of Christ
The United Church of Christ (UCC) has long had a reputation for unfettered liberalism, sometimes bordering on the radical. In 2008, for example, the pastor of the largest UCC congregations in the country was one Rev. Jeremiah Wright. The UCC’s tendency for pushing traditional boundaries has led to unquestionably positive developments (such as the first African-American pastor as early as 1785) and the unquestionably silly (such as the first hymnal that refuses to call Jesus male). Needless to say, in 2005 UCC became the first U.S. mainline Protestant denomination to support same-sex marriage, and has been an outspoken voice in the gay marriage debate ever since.
While UCC has been bleeding members for decades, its decline rapidly accelerated after the gay marriage vote. Since 2005, UCC has lost 250,000 members, a decline of 20.4 percent over seven years. While an average of 39 congregations left UCC annually from 1990 to 2004, more than 350 congregations departed in the following three years. The UCC’s own pension board called the 2000’s decline “the worst decade among 25 reporting Protestant denominations,” and admitted that “…the rate of decline is accelerating.”
2013 marked a particularly grim milestone for the denomination, as membership finally fell below one million. If the post-2005 rate in membership losses doesn’t taper out, the denomination will cease to exist in 30 years.
The habit of Pope Francis in calling people out of the blue has sometimes produced controversial results, but he made one call last week that all Catholics can support:
The massive casualties taken by the Army of the Potomac since the beginning of Grant’s drive on Richmond had destroyed the combat effectiveness of many units in the Army, with large numbers of veteran troops either killed or in hospital to recover from wounds and the ranks filled up with hastitly trained recruits. This decrease in combat capability was dramatically demonstrated at the Second Battle of Reams Station. On August 24, Grant sent Hancock and his II corps south along the Weldon railroad to destroy as much of the rail line currently in Confederate hands as he could, to increase the difficulties of the Confederates in transporting supplies from the portion of the Weldon railroad they stilled controlled to Petersburg and Richmond.
All went well initially with Hancock’s corps destroying three miles of track. However on the afternoon of the 25th a Confederate attack routed the II corps, with Hancock being forced to withdraw to the Union fortified lines. Union casualties were 2,743 to 814 Confederate. 2073 of the Union casualties were prisoners, many of whom surrendered after only brief resistance. Hancock’s reaction to all this, no doubt remembering the days when his troops were considered the elite of the Army, was to remark in despair to an aide as he was unable to rally his retreating troops: “I do not care to die, but I pray God I may never leave this field.” Continue reading
One of the more humiliating events in American history, the burning of Washington was the low point in American fortunes during the War of 1812.
After the British landed an army to attack Washington, Captain Johsua Barney, a Catholic and Revolutionary War hero, go here to read about him, and 500 of his sailors and marines, joined the American army seeking to stop the invaders. At the battle of Bladensburg on August 24, 1814, Barney and his men put up a spirited defense, with cutlasses and bayonets against the advancing British, and throughout it all Barney rallying his men with cries of “Board ‘em! Board ‘em!” Ultimately the Americans retreated, and Barney, seriously wounded, was captured one last time in his career by the British. After being paroled by his captors, he spent the rest of the War recuperating at his farm in Maryland. The heroic stand of Barney and his men had given enough time for Washington to be evacuated, and after the war the grateful citizens of Washington presented a sword to the old sailor for the land fight which ended his naval career. Continue reading
Chicago ain’t no sissy town!
Alderman Michael “Hinky Dink” Kenna
Got to love the modern age. An Isis terrorist purportedly tweeted the above image which shows the Old Republic building in Chicago:
WGNtv.com reports the message on the paper as, “Soldiers of the Islamic state of Iraq and Syria will pass from here soon.” The message is dated “20 June, 2014.”
The text of the tweet adds: “We are in your state, We are in your cities, We are in your streets.” Other tweets say, “we are here #america near our #target…sooooooooooooon.”
Go here to read the rest. As someone who has some experience with the Windy City, I would like to give the ISIS terrorists some tips:
1. Keep your beheading axes firmly under wraps. If not, they will be quickly taken by the skilled thieves of Chicago and fenced within two hours flat.
2. If you set up an operational base in a commercial section, it will be only a matter of hours before some official will be around talking about safety inspections. Slip him at least 200 or I guarantee something will be found wrong and your base will be shut down.
3. If you do park a vehicle on the street some sketchy individual will come up and offer to watch your vehicle. If you do not pay him you might come back and find your car vandalized. If it is a high end vehicle you might come back and find your car gone. Continue reading
“the difference between the old and the new education being) in a word, the old was a kind of propagation – men transmitting manhood to men; the new is merely propaganda.”
CS Lewis, The Abolition of Man
My son and my daughter when they were in high school both took advanced placement American history, earning A’s. (Yeah, they heard quite a lot about American history from me as they were growing up! “Dad, I only asked for three dollars! What does Washington’s strategy during the Yorktown campaign have to do with it?”) They enjoyed the classes and thought they were worthwhile. I am glad they took the courses prior to the new framework for teaching the courses was initiated. Larry Krieger is a retired American history teacher. He specialized in teaching advanced placement American history, and was recognized in 2004 and 2005 by the College Board, the company that produces the courses, as the best teacher of advanced placement American history, and he has written several books to help students prepare for the course. He has been leading the charge against the changes that the College Board is implementing in their American history course:
The Framework’s unbalanced and biased coverage of the Colonial era represents a radical departure from its existing topical outline and from state and local curriculum guides. While students will learn a great deal about the Beaver Wars, the Chickasaw Wars, the Pueblo Revolt, and King Philip’s War, they will learn little or nothing about the rise of religious toleration, the development of democratic institutions, and the emergence of a society that included a rich mix of ethnic groups and the absence of a hereditary aristocracy. The Framework blatantly ignores such pivotal historic figures as Roger Williams and Benjamin Franklin and such key developments as the emergence of New England town meetings and the Virginia House of Burgesses as cradles of democracy.
The absence of coverage on the development of religious toleration is a particularly egregious flaw. Freedom of religion is one of America’s greatest contributions to world civilization. Yet, inexplicably the Framework omits the Pilgrims, mentions the Quakers once, and fails to discuss the importance of religious dissenters such as Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams and the consequences of the First Great Awakening.
Thomas Jefferson described New England town meetings as “the best school of political liberty the world ever saw.” Jefferson was right. We encourage parents, teachers, and students to attend local meetings and ask school and political officials if the new College Board AP U.S. History Framework is aligned with their locally mandated courses of study. If it is not, then the public has a right and a responsibility to demand that the College Board rescind the new Framework and adopt a more appropriate course of study.
At the present time, a five-page outline provides AP U.S. History teachers with a clear chronological list of topics that they should cover in their courses. This traditional outline conforms to the sequence of topics approved by state and local boards of education. In contrast, the new redesigned Framework provides a detailed 98-page document that defines, discusses, and interprets “the required knowledge of each period.” The College Board has thus unilaterally assumed the authority to replace local and state guidelines with its own biased curriculum guide. These biases can be clearly seen in how the Framework emphasizes, deemphasizes, and omits selected topics in the period from 1754 to 1800.
The Framework begins this critical period of American history with a full page devoted to how “various American Indian groups repeatedly evaluated and adjusted their alliances, with Europeans, other tribes, and the new United States government” (page 32). The Framework then generously grants teachers the flexibility to discuss Pontiac’s Rebellion and Chief Little Turtle (page 32).
While the Framework emphasizes “new white-Indian conflicts along the western borders (page 36) and “the seizure of Indian lands” (page 37), it all but ignores George Washington’s life and indispensible contributions to American history. Although Washington was “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen,” he merits only one random Framework reference: “Although George Washington’s Farewell Address warned about the dangers of divisive political parties and permanent foreign alliances, European conflict and tensions with Britain and France fueled increasingly bitter partisan debates throughout the 1790s” (page 34).To put this glaring omission into perspective, imagine how South Africans would respond if an unelected agency issued a history of their country that contained just one reference to Nelson Mandela.
The Framework’s decision to all but omit George Washington extends to his command of the Continental Army. Most state and local curriculum guides require teachers to discuss the significance of Valley Forge and the battles of Saratoga and Yorktown. Instead, the College Board Framework completely ignores all Revolutionary War battles and commanders. Veterans and their families will by dismayed to discover that this is not an oversight. In fact, the College Board ignores military history from the Revolutionary War to the present day. Students will thus not learn about the valor and sacrifices of the Army of Northern Virginia, the Army of the Potomac, the Rough Riders, the doughboys, the GI’s, and the servicemen and women who fought in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
The Framework’s superficial coverage of the Revolutionary War is typical of this poorly organized unit. For example, the Framework devotes just one sentence to the Declaration of Independence (page 34). John Adams later wrote that “the Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people.” While the College Board Framework invites teachers to discuss “the architecture of Spanish missions” (page 34), it does not invite teachers to fully explore the republican ideals that motivated America’s founders. Confused students may wonder what cause motivated the signers of the Declaration of Independence, the soldiers at Valley Forge, and the framers at Independence Hall to sacrifice their lives, their fortunes, and their “sacred honor.” For example, Richard Morris risked his life and sacrificed his fortune to promote the cause of freedom. Continue reading
“When men write about war, then, and say that it is a great plague, that is all true; but they should also see how great the plague is that it prevents. If people were good, and glad to keep peace, war would be the greatest plague on earth; but what are you going to do with the fact that people will not keep peace, but rob, steal, kill, outrage women and children, and take away property and honor?”
Well, even that great heresiarch Martin Luther couldn’t get everything wrong. Of course in regard to war, like much else, he merely lifted just war concepts from Catholicism for his new religion. His quote is interesting however, because it does underline a problem with how many elites in the West, including elites in the Catholic Church, look at war. War is viewed by these elites as something to be avoided at all cost. Lip service is sometimes paid to confronting aggression, but endless excuses are brought up to avoid doing so at all, or doing so effectively.
Why this is the case is usually because it is thought that we can pick and choose our wars and we should always choose to avoid wars. Most Western nations since World War II, if they have fought a war at all, have fought it far away from their shores. The illusion has grown up in the minds of many Western elites that wars can simply be walked away from without consequences. Of course, this is a self-serving falsehood. After Congress, for example, cut off funding for the US military in South Vietnam in 1973, it was the South Vietnamese people who endured Communist rule, with a million of them being tossed into re-education camps, hundreds of thousands summarily executed, and a million boat people risking their lives on the high seas to escape. Refusing to fight is rarely a cost free exercise, it merely means, for contemporary Westerners, that some people we do not know over seas will pay the price. Acting in this manner is usually dressed up in glowing terms of being anti-war, pacifist and non-violent. Perhaps this is a true description for the motivation of some, but I think for most it is simply a deeply cynical assessment that it is not my neck on the line or the necks of anyone that I love. Continue reading
From the only reliable source of Catholic news on the net, Eye of the Tiber:
Seoul, Good Korea–The pope read a 10-minute speech in English at the Presidential office in Seoul, noting that the name “South Korea” was not distinct enough from “the other one” so as to help westerners remember which of the two is the bad one. Although he did not directly mention North Korea, the references were clear, with his speech following an address by South Korean President Park Geun-hye, who dedicated most of her message slamming the bad Korea.
“Catholics in bad Korea had been stripped of their assets, religious leaders kidnapped and murdered,” she said at the welcome ceremonial speech. “We here in the good Korea are trying best to follow the road of peace, instead of war and nuclear weapons,” she stressed. “That is why we are known as the good ones.”
Pope Francis followed her remarks by adding, “Yes, that would be good. Nuclear weapons are bad. But think about it… what if you just changed your name? It would really help us out. The whole flight here I was thinking that we were going to the bad Korea, and I was going to have to meet that guy with the odd face and weird haircut. What’s his name? Ah, yes…Dennis Rodman.”
“Another thing,” Francis continued. “It’s like, when I was watching LOST, I really liked Jin and Sun, but I did not know which of the Koreas they were from, so I did not know whether to trust them. Later on I realized that even if they were from the bad one, they could still be good, right? But I digress…it just would have been easier if they were from somewhere other than Korea. Any Asian country would have worked, actually. Last thing, maybe if you change your name, the LOST people could possibly remake the entire show with the new name and people who watch the show in the future will not have to try to figure out whether Jin and Sun are from the good or bad Korea and just focus their energy on what the smoke monster is and other things like that.”
Something for the weekend. We are Coming Father Abraham, written by Stephen Foster in 1862. Few songs better conveyed Northern determination to win the War. However, by August 1864 that determination seemed to be wearing thin.
With the War stalled both East and West Union morale was faltering. On August 22, 1864 Lincoln received a letter from Republican party chairman Henry J. Raymond suggesting that Lincoln offer peace terms to Jefferson Davis on the sole term of acknowledgement of the supremacy of the Constitution with slavery to be dealt with at a later date. Lincoln’s morale remained unshaken, but he was a veteran politician and could read the political tea leaves as well as any political prognosticator. That he read defeat in the tea leaves is demonstrated by what has become known as The Blind Memorandum. Lincoln sealed this document and on August w3, 1864 asked his cabinet officers to sign it unread. They complied. Here is the text:
This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this Administration will not be re-elected. Then it will be my duty to so co-operate with the President elect, as to save the Union between the election and the inauguration; as he will have secured his election on such ground that he can not possibly save it afterwards.
A. Lincoln Continue reading
Well, PopeWatch believes that the Ice Bucket challenge, to raise funds to fight ALS, phenomenon has indeed gone viral when he witnessed it occurring across the street from his office yesterday. Now someone wants the Pope to get into the act.
Puerto Rico resident Juan Sepulveda Laracuente suffers from Lou Gehrig’s Disease (also known as ALS) and lacks mobility. The neuromuscular disease has paralyzed his vocal chords, and he’s connected to machines that keep him alive.
So with the help of a speech synthesizer he tells the audience on YouTube: “Tengo la terrible enfermedad de ALS, o mal de Lou Gehrig. Soy de Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico, y reto al Papa Francisco al ice-bucket challenge.”
It translates in English to: “I suffer from the terrible disease ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. I’m from Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico, and I dare Pope Francis to take the ice-bucket challenge.”
Then you see his aid pull away his voice synthesizer and pour a small bucket of water on him, eliciting a grimace from his face as the cold water pours over him. The shock of the cold was enough stimuli to elicit the expression of a gasp on Juan Spulveda Laracuente‘s face. This brave man has already taken the challenge to the next level even if the Pope doesn’t participate. Continue reading
Lincoln, six feet one in his stocking feet,
The lank man, knotty and tough as a hickory rail,
Whose hands were always too big for white-kid gloves,
Whose wit was a coonskin sack of dry, tall tales,
Whose weathered face was homely as a plowed field–
Abraham Lincoln, who padded up and down
The sacred White House in nightshirt and carpet-slippers,
And yet could strike young hero-worshipping Hay
As dignified past any neat, balanced, fine
Plutarchan sentences carved in a Latin bronze;
The low clown out of the prairies, the ape-buffoon,
The small-town lawyer, the crude small-time politician,
State-character but comparative failure at forty
In spite of ambition enough for twenty Caesars,
Honesty rare as a man without self-pity,
Kindness as large and plain as a prairie wind,
And a self-confidence like an iron bar:
This Lincoln, President now by the grace of luck,
Disunion, politics, Douglas and a few speeches
Which make the monumental booming of Webster
Sound empty as the belly of a burst drum.
Stephen Vincent Benet
(I originally posted this on February 9, 2012. The comments it contains regarding my late son Larry reminds me that in this Vale of Tears we can never know the ending of our personal history, but we can do our best to make it a tale worth reading when we come to our end, something that I think both Mr. Lincoln and my son accomplished on vastly different scales.)
Today is the 203rd birthday of the Sixteenth President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. The above video is an interesting and imaginative interview of Lincoln, if the film technology of the Thirties of the last century had been available in 1860.
Lately I have been reading a book on Lincoln with my autistic son. I point at the words and he reads them, an early morning ritual we have carried out for the last 14 years. Young Lincoln’s struggles against the poverty of his early years, and his lack of more than one year in total of formal education, strikes a chord with me in regard to my son’s struggles against his autism. One of the many reasons why I find Mr. Lincoln’s life endlessly fascinating is the theme throughout it of the most extraordinary possibilities in all of us, no matter the cards that Fate dealt to us initially. more
“At a moment of great crises in the history of the world, he gave of himself,”
Archbishop Justin Rigali at funeral mass for Michael Blassie
Air Force First Lieutenant Michael Blassie’s life came to an end at age twenty-four on May 11, 1972 when the A-37B Dragonfly that he was flying in support of South Vietnamese troops in An Loc was shot down. His body could not be recovered because the North Vietnamese had control of the area where his plane was shot down. The Saint Louis native, a 1970 graduate of the Air Force academy, had a short military career but an illustrious one: earning a Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, and an Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters. Thanks to the air support he and his colleagues gave, the North Vietnamese did not take An Loc.
Five months later partial skeletal remains were recovered from the crash site. Initially identified as being Blassie’s, the remains were later reclassified as being unknown when it was erroneously determined that the height and age of the remains did not match with Blassie. Continue reading
Three Laws of Transhumanism:
1) A transhumanist must safeguard one’s own existence above all else.
2) A transhumanist must strive to achieve omnipotence as expediently as possible—so long as one’s actions do not conflict with the First Law.
3) A transhumanist must safeguard value in the universe—so long as one’s actions do not conflict with the First and Second Laws.
Truly, this earth is a trophy cup for the industrious man. And this rightly so, in the service of natural selection. He who does not possess the force to secure his Lebensraum in this world, and, if necessary, to enlarge it, does not deserve to possess the necessities of life. He must step aside and allow stronger peoples to pass him by.
Adolph Hitler, December 18, 1940
Surveying our contemporary world, it is easy to reach the assumption that Adolph Hitler was simply born a century too early. Many of the ideas he embraced have become completely mainstream, especially in Europe. His view of eugenics for example, which he summarized in his look at Sparta in the book he wrote after Mein Kampf and which remained unpublished during his life:
Sparta must be regarded as the first Völkisch State. The exposure of the sick, weak, deformed children, in short, their destruction, was more decent and in truth a thousand times more humane than the wretched insanity of our day which preserves the most pathological subject, and indeed at any price, and yet takes the life of a hundred thousand healthy children in consequence of birth control or through abortions, in order subsequently to breed a race of degenerates burdened with illnesses.
After becoming dictator of Germany, Hitler implemented his beliefs in his T4 program which killed the mentally ill and all others who, through mental or physical defect, failed to measure up to Hitler’s master race dreams. “Life unworthy of life”, the German phrase is “Lebensunwertes Leben”, was the verbiage that substituted for the simple term, murder, which accurately described the brutal reality. Realizing that this policy would be controversial, Hitler did it as much in secret as possible, although critics, especially Bishop Von Galen, the aptly nicknamed Lion of Munster, did speak out. Go here to read Von Galen’s take down of this murder of the innocents.
Now, Hitler’s policy is being given a trendy new repackaging in the erst-while Libertarian UK branch of Wired magazine, by “transhumanist”, and atheist, writer Zoltan Istvan:
The philosophical conundrum of controlling human procreation rests mostly on whether all human beings are actually responsible enough to be good parents and can provide properly for their offspring. Clearly, untold numbers of children — for example, those millions that are slaves in the illegal human trafficking industry — are born to unfit parents.
In an attempt to solve this problem and give hundreds of millions of future kids a better life, I cautiously endorse the idea of licensing parents, a process that would be little different than getting a driver’s licence. Parents who pass a series of basic tests qualify and get the green light to get pregnant and raise children. Those applicants who are deemed unworthy — perhaps because they are homeless, or have drug problems, or are violent criminals, or have no resources to raise a child properly and keep it from going hungry — would not be allowed until they could demonstrate they were suitable parents. Continue reading
Pope Francis reminds us that the Grim Reaper is not subject to papal authority.
“Some theologians may say this is not right, but I think this way,” he said in a lighthearted exchange with reporters returning to Rome from a trip to South Korea. “Let us think about what [Benedict XVI] said, ‘I have got old, I do not have the strength.’ It was a beautiful gesture of nobility, of humility and courage.”
He added: “But you could say to me, if you at some time felt you could not go forward, I would do the same.” Asked about his immense popularity, the 77-year-old joked that he would probably die soon so should not get too proud: “I know this will last a short time, two or three years, and then to the house of the Father.” Pope Francis also said he had some nerve problems that he treated with a South American tea-like drink called Mate, and that he had not taken a vacation away from home since 1975. Continue reading
Christianity is not the creed of Asia and Africa at this moment solely because the seventh century Christians of Asia and Africa had trained themselves not to fight, whereas the Moslems were trained to fight. Christianity was saved in Europe solely because the peoples of Europe fought. If the peoples of Europe in the seventh and eighth centuries, on up to and including the seventeenth century, had not possessed a military equality with, and gradually a growing superiority over the Mohammedans who invaded Europe, Europe would at this moment be Mohammedan and the Christian religion would be exterminated.
May the soul of journalist James Foley, a Catholic, beheaded by the terrorists of ISIS, rest in peace. May he now be enjoying the Beatific Vision. May those responsible for his foul murder receive justice to the full for this deed in this world and the next.